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Robin Vos: Discussion on fetal tissue bill 'ongoing'

Robin Vos: Discussion on fetal tissue bill 'ongoing'

Assembly Vos Presser-10212015171120 (copy)

Wisconsin State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, right, and Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, at an October 2015 press conference.

As anti-abortion advocates rallied outside the state Capitol Tuesday urging legislators to pass a ban on aborted fetal tissue research, the bill's future appeared uncertain in the Legislature.

Pro-life organizations and the legislators behind that bill and two other bills held a Rally for Life on the Capitol steps, urging lawmakers to pass all three. The groups are particularly focused on encouraging Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to schedule a vote, because they believe the Assembly has the votes to pass the legislation.

But Vos said Tuesday Republican lawmakers are still working to reach a compromise on the proposal, which is an updated version of a 2013 bill that would ban the "sale, transfer or experimentation" of fetal body parts. It faces opposition from the scientific and medical research communities, despite an amendment aimed at allaying those concerns.

Vos said he's encouraged members of the Assembly GOP caucus to have conversations about the bill, discussions which he believes are ongoing. However, he said, some of the bill's authors have said they want the bill to pass exactly as it was drafted. 

He said he has cautioned them against taking an all-or-nothing approach, encouraging them to look instead at what they can accomplish.

"If that’s their position, it's going to be awfully hard to get the bill to the floor," Vos told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said last week there's a wide gap between Republican senators who want to pass the bill in its current form and those who are concerned it could have a "chilling effect" on research, particularly research being conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Fitzgerald said reaching a compromise in the Senate will be difficult.

Fitzgerald said he expects votes on the other two bills, which would place limits on how much Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed for prescription drugs acquired through a Medicaid program, and prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal Title X funds, diverting the money to other groups at the discretion of the state Department of Health Services.

The second of the two funding proposals was passed by the Assembly in September. Vos said legislators are continuing discussions about the other funding bill.

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Jessie Opoien is the Capital Times' opinion editor. She joined the Cap Times in 2013, covering state government and politics for the bulk of her time as a reporter. She has also covered music, culture and education in Madison and Oshkosh.